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Temp Attorneys:
The Washington City Paper has this provocative article on attorney temping. An excerpt:
  For more and more law school graduates, this is the legal life: On a given day, they may plow through a few hundred documents—e-mails, PowerPoint presentations, memos, and anything else on a hard drive. Each document appears on their computer screen. They read it, then click one of the buttons on the screen that says "relevant" or "not relevant," and then they look at the next document.
  This isn't anyone's dream job, but more and more lawyers in big cities around the country are finding that seven years of higher education, crushing student loans, and an unfriendly job market have brought them to windowless rooms around the city, where they do well-paid work that sometimes seems to require no more than a law degree, the use of a single index finger, and the ability to sit still for 15 hours a day. Is this being a lawyer? It is now.
Thanks to AL&P for the link.
TyrantLimaBean:
That is an incredibly depressing article. Now I know why they always look so sad and sullen.
11.9.2007 3:34pm
Steve:
I've been a temp lawyer in a couple different cities between jobs. It's not all bad. One time I got sent to Alaska for a month, all expenses paid, just to review documents. It turns out Alaska in June is 70 and sunny every day.

The pay varies from market to market. In New York, for example (at least a few years ago), temps would typically get $20/hour, with time and a half for overtime. In Chicago, the going rate was more like $30/hour. The temps I met who were based in Alaska actually got $50/hour and full benefits, the problem being that there's not a lot of demand for temp lawyers in Alaska. In New York, by contrast, the pay may suck but you can stay employed 52 weeks a year if you like.

This is how a lot of the big firms handle major document review projects these days. I don't know what kind of markup they take, but if you have 50,000 boxes of documents that need to be reviewed, there aren't a lot of good options. I had plenty of experience under my belt at the time, but the typical reviewer is either (1) a recent law school grad who couldn't find a permanent job, or (2) a more experienced lawyer who enjoys the flexibility of part-time work for personal reasons. For those in the former category, it's a good bet they never envisioned this sort of gig when they signed up for six figures in law school debt.

The jobs can run the gamut. One time I got hired by a major white-shoe firm to write a 50-page research memo on business combinations and the regulatory barriers they face in 20 different countries. (This was useful information for their transactional lawyers, but they couldn't figure out how to bill it to a specific client, so they looked for a temp.) Another time I got hired to write a complex summary judgment motion after an associate quit on short notice. In contrast, another time I was hired to review a massive document production and stamp each document as either "confidential" or "highly confidential."

Stamping documents for $35/hour actually isn't the worst way to make a living. As I said once in Alaska, "I used to think my job was nothing but a glorified box mover, but now I realize I'm not so glorified."
11.9.2007 3:43pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
What is the current law firm hierarchy? My best guess is:
Partner
Of Counsel
Partner-track Associates
Staff Attorneys
U.S. Temp Attorneys
Offshore Outsourced Attorneys

When you are a temp document reviewer, you live for e-mails that have some spark of humanity in them, even if they are banal and about people who are being investigated by the Department of Justice, because those e-mails are not spreadsheets; they are not brochures or policy statements.

I remember feeling that way when I externed for a local attorney whom the judge had made counsel for an indigent criminal defendant. I was assigned to go through a box of the prosecution's evidence and organize it (which I guess is the level of task appropriate to someone without a JD). The best find of the day was the client's letter to a girlfriend in which he repeatedly referred to himself as "Daddy." Before that I'd never realized how invasive of one's privacy a criminal investigation could be.

Arin Greenwood is good at chronicling minor bad things about modern life. Her article about getting scammed was a great read.
11.9.2007 3:46pm
Ignatius (www):
A lesson for 1L's or aspiring law students: you must get good grades. If a dean or professor ever tells you that grades aren't a big deal, don't listen to them. They tend to do this right before first semester finals just to make you feel better. Too bad it isn't true.
11.9.2007 3:49pm
Ben P (mail):
It's things like this that made me glad I chose a State Law School where I'll graduate with basically no debt. My grades are good, but even if I don't get a choice job, I won't be forced to scramble to make student loan payments.
11.9.2007 3:56pm
Mike& (mail):
As someone who went through dumpsters for cans as a child for spending money (30 cans @ 52 cents pound), worked at a scrap yard (10-20 bucks a day), detassled corn ($5.35/hr.), and waited tables for red necks... All I can say to victims making $35 is.... Get a grip.

I am also sure there are a lot of migrant workers who would love to make $35/hr. doing such "tedious" work as document review.

If, instead of going home and watching television, the temp lawyers bettered themselves by reading or attending CLEs, or wrote scholarly articles, I imagine their fates would change. I've exchange e-mails with a certain high-achieving people who, though already successful, were up past midnight doing "extra" work. Seems like someone who hasn't even achieved anything should have a similar ethic.
11.9.2007 3:57pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
A lesson for 1L's or aspiring law students: you must get good grades.

Getting good grades in college and a very high LSAT score (enabling you to go to a highly-ranked law school and then make Bs that are still good enough for the AmLaw 100) is a reasonable substitute for making good grades in law school. The author of the article ended up doing this work not because she made bad grades or went to a bad school, but because she decided not to stay on the BigLaw track.

Possibly the lesson is: Unless you are OK with due diligence or doc review, don't borrow 6 figures to go to law school. If you're not sure whether you're OK with it, take a paralegal course and work for a law firm, and you'll find out quickly whether you are suited for this life.
11.9.2007 4:01pm
Steve:
Cindy Crawford also detassled corn and look where it got her. One of my colleages in the temp lawyer position was a former garbageman before he went to law school. I forgot to ask him if he made more as a garbageman.

I sure hope you don't think I was whining about getting paid $35/hour to stamp documents.
11.9.2007 4:02pm
Mike& (mail):
Not you, Steve. You seemed to have a healthy attitude about it. It's a job - not the greatest job in the world, but one that pays well enough. That is the right attitude.

It's the snots who look down at making more money than 80-90% of the population who irk me. They should spend an aid doing legal work at a migrant farm. Or go to an animal shelter or nursing home. Other sentient beings have real problems.

By the way, the people in the article have this chief complaint: "I'm not doing real law." Well, if they really wanted to do "real" law, why aren't they doing pro bono?

Again, they're just a bunch of entitled snots. They're the same people who complain about the "lack of client contact" or "I never go to court" when making 170K at BigLaw.
11.9.2007 4:07pm
Rich B. (mail):
Not surprisingly, the lowest 10% of jobs in any given market will be relatively crappy.

I'm sure you could write a similar article about general practitioners in the free clinic in Topeka, ("I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, but it turns out those jobs are hard to get!"), MBAs whose first company quickly went bankrupt, computer programmers who just graduated . . .

This is just another article that pretends to be surprised that, among the relatively elite, there is wide variations in job quality.
11.9.2007 4:35pm
CDU (mail):
While temp jobs may be the lowest rung on the prestige totem pole, according to the article they're actually paying them pretty well, even for a lawyer. The economic aspect is interesting, since there seems to be a substitution between 'interestingness' and money.
11.9.2007 4:42pm
TyrantLimaBean:
>I'm sure you could write a similar article about general practitioners in the free clinic in Topeka, ("I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, but it turns out those jobs are hard to get!"), MBAs whose first company quickly went bankrupt, computer programmers who just graduated . . .

The difference is that the temps are right down the hall from the $160k first years at the same firms. It's a strange dynamic.
11.9.2007 4:45pm
TRE:
I heard a rumor that some lawyers work for themselves and make a decent living. Can anyone confirm or deny?
11.9.2007 4:46pm
jdh (mail) (www):
I am also sure there are a lot of migrant workers who would love to make $35/hr. doing such "tedious" work as document review.

Sure, but the problem is the difference between what you expect and what you achieve. If you expect to slave away in a field or mine, and that's what you do, there's little to despair about. If you expect to make 6 figures and be respected, and you end up slaving away under some jerk boss for modest pay, there's much to despair about.
11.9.2007 4:48pm
Horatio (mail):
I heard a rumor that some lawyers work for themselves and make a decent living. Can anyone confirm or deny?

Wow - you mean they're allowed to do this. My God, man, what next? Doctors working for themselves? Accountants? People actually opening thier own business? This is an outrage to all that's good and Holy. Isn't everyone supposed to work for large law forms or companies? At the very least the government. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this notion of sole practitioners.

(Pssst - don't tell anyone but my father who practiced law for 40 years was a sole practitioner. He actually turned down opportunities to work at prestigious NY law firms, admittedly to his own economic disadvantage, but the freedom to pick and choose clients and live life to his dictates, not the firm's.)
11.9.2007 5:14pm
cmn (mail) (www):
Given that we're dealing with disgruntled lawyers, I'm surprised there haven't been class action lawsuits alleging that the law schools' employment statistics constitute "unfair business practices" because they mislead applicants about the nature and pay of the jobs their graduates get. I'm not saying such a suit would necessarily be well-founded, but it would be no worse founded than many suits that do get brought. If each law school were to provide a more-detailed breakdown of the employment results of its graduates (say, by providing GPA ranges, categories of employment, and income), then applicants would have a much more realistic idea before making the investment as to what they are buying. Perhaps the answer to my question is that the people who would be proactive enough to bring such a lawsuit don't need to, because they were also proactive enough to seek out that data on their own, and/or to find better jobs.
11.9.2007 5:17pm
Oris (mail) (www):
It's a little unfair to characterize people as arrogant because they are disappointed and cranky that they are bored out of their skulls and making less money than they had expected, even if they are making considerably more money than the average person who didn't go to school for seven years. I got myself a shiny law degree because I wanted to do challenging and interesting work. Instead, I was a trained monkey for a year and a half. It sucked, so I eventually left it for a job that paid half as much, but where I was able to put all that education to good use. I don't think it's at all arrogant to say, "This isn't what I thought I was signing up for," no matter how much it pays.
11.9.2007 5:20pm
deweber (mail):
Actually, a cousin of mine runs this sort of operation for a large firm. His take is that he does not want the top of the line lawyer for this kind of work. The issue on the process is to get through the documents as quickly and accurately as possible(note processes can be set up to deal with errors). Someone who want to read and "understand" a document slows down the process. Someone who is top of the class has a hard time just skimming the document for general issue and classifying. Some of his best people are not Law Review material. On the other hand, this is a growing business. With discovery requiring all e-mails and online files to be handed over, vetting them for confidentiality and relevance is vital. Big money doing this right and fast.
11.9.2007 5:36pm
r78:
Ya - the sympathy trolling for migrant workers is b.s..

I doubt that most migrant workers spent 7 years in college law school and accumulated student loan debt on their way to picking cabbage.
11.9.2007 5:46pm
tab (mail):
Document review sounds dreadful.
11.9.2007 5:51pm
dejapooh (mail):
Hey, when I first became a teacher, I promised myself three things:

1) I would not work for an Urban School District
2) I would not work for LAUSD in Particular
3) I would not teach Middle School.

Come august, I was able to get a job teaching For LAUSD, in South Central Los Angeles, At Horace Mann Middle School. I then spent 10 years in South Central teaching at middle schools, and honestly, I wouldn't mind it if I could have my old job back (I was teaching Computer Skills at 30th and Broadway when the principal decided that EVERY student needed to take two English classes a day. To make the time available, he closed all elective programs and moved the teachers to other subjects or to new schools).
11.9.2007 6:02pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Document review sounds dreadful.
How do you think the documents feel about it?
11.9.2007 6:07pm
John425:
I don't see why lawyers don't appropriate the Relative Value Schedule that physicians live under. All legal procedures coded, classified and with a government fixed payment schedule.
E.g.-Simple will- RVS allows $500. Govm't actually pays $300.
Complex will-$950 allowed--$600 actual.

Ooops, my bad--physicians didn't volunteer for the RVS payment method- government lawyers forced it on them.
11.9.2007 6:54pm
Guest101:
cmn,

There have been such cases. See Bank v. Brooklyn Law School, 2000 WL 1692844, No. 97-CV-7470(JG), 2000 WL 1692844, AT *1 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 6, 2000) (Gleeson, J.) (emphasis added):


In March 1993, plaintiff Todd Bank read in U.S. News &World Report that the class of 1992 graduates of defendant Brooklyn Law School working in the private sector earned an average of $60,328. Based in part on that information, plaintiff decided to attend Brooklyn Law School and decided not to transfer to another law school a year later. He graduated in 1996. He claims that the $60,328 figure was false and misleading.

Plaintiff, who is representing himself in this case, has converted that straightforward allegation into a 65-page, 225-paragraph complaint that charges, among many other things, that Brooklyn Law School violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., in association with various other entities and thousands of individuals. It is exactly this sort of complaint that has given the private right of action under RICO a bad name.

Brooklyn Law School has moved to dismiss the case. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.
11.9.2007 6:57pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, getting an education is no guarantee of subsequent market success. Maybe people go to law school thinking things are guaranteed, but it really only gets you a ticket to compete for the jobs you want. I'm not feeling enormous sympathy for those who fail in that competition.
11.9.2007 6:58pm
VFBVFB (mail):
—- Given that we're dealing with disgruntled lawyers, I'm surprised there haven't been class action lawsuits alleging that the law schools' employment statistics constitute "unfair business practices" because they mislead applicants about the nature and pay of the jobs their graduates get. —-

Actually a law student did, but lost. See, Bank v. Brooklyn Law School, 297 A.D.2d 770. But that was in 2002, and the Court found that he had no factual basis. Over time, there is a growing belief that schools lie about their employment data, so that Courts will not be so skeptical.
11.9.2007 7:00pm
Guest101:
So Bank filed a state court action after his RICO claim was dismissed in federal court? If he had put so much effort into litigating for others as he did for himself, he probably could have exceeded the salary expectations that Brooklyn Law set for him. (Or, given the apparent quality of his legal work, not.)
11.9.2007 7:22pm
Law Student (mail):
You guys are really quick to judge these people as having no or low-level legal skills based on their inability to find a good job out of the gate. This is absurd. No one will ever know if these people are any good since they will never be given a chance. I attend a school ranked in the 30 - 40 range and have top grades but there are plenty of competent people who may have gotten a raw deal in a class or two first year and may know have their careers permanently derailed. Perhaps the people who are so quick to ridicule these poor kids should direct their vitriol to the absurd system that relies exclusively on first year grades as a proxy for legal ability.
11.9.2007 7:36pm
Nate F (www):
If I was making 20 an hour with that much debt, I'd be upset. 30+ though? Maybe not so much.
11.9.2007 7:37pm
Law Student (mail):
You guys are really quick to judge these people as having no or low-level legal skills based on their inability to find a good job out of the gate. This is absurd. No one will ever know if these people are any good since they will never be given a chance. I attend a school ranked in the 30 - 40 range and have top grades but there are plenty of competent people who may have gotten a raw deal in a class or two first year and may know now have their careers permanently derailed. Perhaps the people who are so quick to ridicule these poor kids should direct their vitriol to the absurd system that relies exclusively on first year grades as a proxy for legal ability.
11.9.2007 7:38pm
Law Student (mail):
I also think a lot of the older attorneys have not adjusted to the new admissions criteria for law school. 15 years ago numbers that would barely qualify you for Brooklyn law school or Cardozo would have gotten you in at Georgetown and UVA. Stanford was letting in 165's as late as 1997. I would have been competitive at Harvard if I applied when many of the people who are looking at my resume went to law school. My point is the underclass of lawyers are much more talented now then they were 20 years ago and I think that needs to be accounted for in the analysis.
11.9.2007 7:51pm
CarolynElefant (mail) (www):
In response to the commenter who asked about lawyers who work for themselves, yes, there are plenty, and yes, many of them do plenty well. One of the best kept secrets of solo practice is that many solo lawyers are not struggling losers, as some would like you to believe. Solos with specialty practices that compete with biglaw (such as my energy regulatory and appellate practice) are easily earning 6 figures, with some well over 500k. And even most solos who run consumer based general practices earn comparable to what lawyers in government or in house at insurance companies earn. There are dozens of blogs on solo practice, my own included (www.myshingle.com) that offer numerous examples of successful solos and advice on how to start a practice.
11.9.2007 7:55pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Reading this article set my entrepreneur-sense tingling. This strikes me as an ideal field for a piece-work system.

The temp agencies apparently push hard for productivity, given the signing out for bathroom breaks and nails on keyboard complaints. And mind-numbing, hourly-wage job like this is exactly the kind of job that encourages slacking and clock-watching. If they paid per document, instead, it seems as though both productivity and job satisfaction would go up.
11.9.2007 8:14pm
Guest101:
Gregory,

On the other hand, such a system might encourage counterproductive sloppiness in the review of documents. As I can attest from personal experience, it's very easy when doing document review to numbly click through dozens of documents without fully focusing on their contents, especially after one has been reviewing for 5 or 6 (or 10) hours. I'm not sure it would be a good idea for firms to implement a system that would encourage such carelessness, particularly since, given the volume of documents to be reviewed, most of the documents reviewed by contract attorneys are never seen by associates or partners and the contract attorneys' judgments are never evaluated, particularly with respect to documents marked not responsive.
11.9.2007 8:49pm
NI:
OK, let's be honest here. The real problem is that there's a glut of law schools turning out more lawyers than are really needed (which is part of the reason there's so much bad litigation -- all those JD's have got to make work for themselves somehow). I've always said many problems could be solved by closing half the law schools and opening twice as many medical schools.

I went to law school, graduated in a bad economy, couldn't find a job and am now doing something else. I'm happy, though if I'd known I wouldn't be practicing I probably wouldn't have gone to law school in the first place. But the bottom line is that anyone who looks into it will find out that there's a glut of lawyers BEFORE they go to the trouble and expense of earning a JD, and if they choose to take the risk anyway, well, they choose to take the risk anyway.
11.9.2007 8:49pm
spider:
The quoted text from the article says: "they do well-paid work that sometimes seems to require no more than a law degree, the use of a single index finger, and the ability to sit still for 15 hours a day"

Is a law degree even required for this kind of work? Yes, sure, according to the existing "legal ethics" rules this constitutes the "practice of law" and non-lawyers shouldn't do it, blah blah, but why couldn't college graduates do this?
11.9.2007 8:50pm
deweber (mail):
Gregory:
Note that the process is not just a single pass over the documents. Multiple passes and sampling methods can be used. The biggest issue he finds is that he has to have lawyers do the vetting at all levels, when the truth is that non-lawyers with training could do much of the simple first work.
11.9.2007 9:32pm
fennel:
That article should be standard reading for anyone considering law school.
11.9.2007 10:08pm
eric (mail):
As a third year student at a fourth tier regional school, I wonder how much of this is local. Many of these lawyers who could not get jobs in NYC should probably be looking at flyover country more. The salaries might be depressing at first glance, but when you factor in cost of living, there are jobs out there that pay well.

In fact, if a person wishes to stay in state, they might be better off going to a third or fourth tier school with a scholarship than the best school they could get into with no scholarship. $200,000 in debt is a lot. But if you can get out with little or no debt, options are open to you that are not open to the grad with huge debt. You can afford to be a DA or PD or work for some Public Interest Group.
11.9.2007 10:24pm
anon411 (mail):
I do this work currently for a firm in Richmond VA, and make $29/hr. my bosses are not jerks at all, but the work definitely is sheer drudgery. the mix of people seems to be about 70% young lawyers wishing to do something else, and 30% older people for whom this is a later phase in their career. not all are licensed.

good: unlimited free beverages (soda, coffee, tea).

bad: we cannot listen to iPods and our workstations have no internet access (for email, etc., we use a common terminal that always has a line and we have to sign in and out when using it).

worse: as the article says, feeling trapped between the career-killing decent hourly wage and the uncertainty of an otherwise crappy market.

FYI, I graduated 2006 from a top 30 school and was top third of my class.
11.9.2007 10:34pm
TerrencePhilip:
As a third year student at a fourth tier regional school, I wonder how much of this is local. Many of these lawyers who could not get jobs in NYC should probably be looking at flyover country more. The salaries might be depressing at first glance, but when you factor in cost of living, there are jobs out there that pay well.

In fact, if a person wishes to stay in state, they might be better off going to a third or fourth tier school with a scholarship than the best school they could get into with no scholarship. $200,000 in debt is a lot. But if you can get out with little or no debt, options are open to you that are not open to the grad with huge debt. You can afford to be a DA or PD or work for some Public Interest Group.


Sure, you are almost always better off going to law school in the city or state you want to practice in, unless you go to one of the very few schools with a truly national brand. But if someone is stuck doing document review in New York, Chicago or L.A., they probably prefer living there to flyover country; moving to Cleveland is not an option. They will just slug it out with document review and try to find an opening into the kind of work they'd rather be doing.
11.9.2007 11:50pm
Waldensian (mail):
I'll say this about large-scale e-discovery document review: every now and then you find an e-mail that is so disturbing, so horribly inappropriate and creepy, that it will cause you to re-evaulate your view of humanity.

Alas, these e-mails almost never have anything to do with the issues in a given lawsuit.
11.9.2007 11:57pm
BGates:
every now and then you find an e-mail that is so disturbing, so horribly inappropriate and creepy, that it will cause you to re-evaulate your view of humanity.

Yeah, that's why I stick to blog comment threads. Keeps my spirits up.
11.10.2007 12:33am
NickM (mail) (www):
Document review is a rather necessary part of litigation. Did I miss the memo that attorneys are only supposed to have to do the fun parts?

Nick
11.10.2007 1:33am
Mike& (mail):
Sure, but the problem is the difference between what you expect and what you achieve. If you expect to slave away in a field or mine, and that's what you do, there's little to despair about. If you expect to make 6 figures and be respected, and you end up slaving away under some jerk boss for modest pay, there's much to despair about.


As Harry Caray would say: "Holy cow!"

You have done more to prove my "out of touch" comment than I ever could have.

Have you ever even talked to a migrant worker? A factory worker? You really should spend some time with people who can barely walk and go to bed in pain every night from back-breaking jobs.

Ya - the sympathy trolling for migrant workers is b.s..

I doubt that most migrant workers spent 7 years in college law school and accumulated student loan debt on their way to picking cabbage.


You, too.

Really, folks, you need to take a good look at how the other half (really, the bottom 10% lives).

They do not enjoy their jobs or have a "Well, at least I don't have school loans!" outlook on life. Most would love to have your "problems."

The VC comments section never ceases to astound me.
11.10.2007 2:29am
Mike& (mail):
You guys are really quick to judge these people as having no or low-level legal skills based on their inability to find a good job out of the gate. This is absurd. No one will ever know if these people are any good since they will never be given a chance.


There are lots of people who need legal help. Do some pro bono work. Go to legal aid. (Maybe after talking to people with real problems, you won't feel so damned sorry for yourself.) Offer to help a more experienced lawyer out. Start a blog and make it worth reading.

There are lots of ways to prove yourself.
11.10.2007 2:36am
Brian G (mail) (www):
I went to a state school, $8,000 a year in-state, and graduated last year. About three weeks ago, I was representing a store owner is a slip and fall lawsuit at an Motion for Summary Judgment hearing. Basic premises liability case. Opposing counsel was a Stanford guy, graduated in 2002 or so. I argued for about three minutes, citing the exact language of a few cases, and argued policy grounds as week.

Big shot Stanford guy opens up and says "Defendant's oversimplification of the applicable law fails to appreciate the nuances in play here." (Exact quote) He started on some law review, theroretical nonsense. About four minutes into a bunch of nonsense, Judge cut him off and said, "[Name redacted], you just got an A on your law school exam. In the meantime, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted."

And he's not the first Top 10 law school guy I rolled in court. I read here and elsewhere all the time how the big-time schools don't teach state law. They act like they are too good for it. In the meantime, guys like me are out winning cases over the so-called big boys.
11.10.2007 4:02am
Ex parte McCardle:
Good for you, Brian G. A few years out of law school, I dropped out for a while and did a Ph.D. at Yale in a maximally-unrelated-to-law field. While I was in New Haven, I got to know quite a few YLS students. And I am not exaggerating at all when I say that I would not entrust an actual legal matter of any sort to any of them. I pity their future clients.
11.10.2007 8:20am
Gaius Marius:
There may be an oversupply of lawyers. There will never be an oversupply of good, competent lawyers.
11.10.2007 9:43am
Siona Sthrunch (mail):
-------------------------
then click one of the buttons on the screen that says "relevant" or "not relevant," and then they look at the next document.
-------------------------

This sounds like on-line poker, just less fun.
11.10.2007 11:27am
GW3L (mail):
TerrencePhilip,

Chicago is, by definition, in flyover country.
11.10.2007 11:40am
TerrencePhilip:
GW3L, touche.

Brian G, surely you did a good job on your summary judgment, but the "big shot Stanford guy" handling a plaintiff's slip-and-fall case (perhaps he wasn't top of his class?) sounds like he had the facts and law against him, and at least had the presence of mind to say SOMETHING to try to keep his suit alive. Was there some aspect of state law he failed to argue that would've defeated your motion?

Beyond the satisfaction of winning, it's also nice when a victory comes against a good or prestigious opponent, as a sign you probably did a good job; but cases usually are decided on their merits. I don't think that your experience proves anything about the relative quality of elite vs. state schools.
11.10.2007 11:52am
A.C.:
I think a lot of the outrage about this sort of thing is that it changes the rules about how PROFESSIONS, as opposed to jobs, handle scut work. There's always scut work, and somebody always has to do it. However, educated professions have typically dealt with this problem by making a deal with entry level staff. Entry level jobs involve disproportionate scut work, and sometimes other indignities, but they also provide opportunities for training and advancement. People accepting those jobs know they have to pay their dues, but paying them is supposed to LEAD somewhere.

Temp work violates the deal, because by definition it doesn't lead anywhere.

Comparisons to migrant workers and to other trades are pretty much beside the point. There's always someone who has it worse. The real question for me is whether the legal profession is eating its own young.

The current generation of practitioners will retire (or die) eventually, and there will be serious problems if they do not attend to the development of people in the pipeline. A short-term focus can lead to long-term problems if nobody plans for succession. And the one thing we know for sure about the Baby Boom generation (as a group) is that they NEVER plan for succession. They think they're going to be here forever, and they won't.
11.10.2007 12:09pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Ignatius, with respect to your statement: "A lesson for 1L's or aspiring law students: you must get good grades. If a dean or professor ever tells you that grades aren't a big deal, don't listen to them.:

Please tell us:

In the BigLaw/Courts employment arena, how do we deal with removing the effects of discrimination occurring at the law schools to "level the playing field," so we don't create a substandard 2nd class level of employment for the J.D.'d victims, thereby perpetuating the lack of a level playing field and denying forever better employment opportunities?

e.g., Law Student A graduates law school before adherence to anti-discrimination enforcement of the Americans W/Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act reasonable accommodations mandate, failure to accommodate results in bottom 1/5th of the class -- how do we adjust this result to remove the discrimination and compare to those w/o disabilities graduating say in the past couple years who are top 1/10th?

Or do we just accept this discrimination pervading the legal profession and the fact numerous victims of illegal discrimination are releged to mindless grunt tasks that really only require about a 3rd grade level of education and a lot of elephant tranquilizer to get thru the day and perform?

Just curious ..




3. e.g.
11.10.2007 12:15pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"The difference is that the temps are right down the hall from the $160k first years at the same firms. It's a strange dynamic." This is a gem of a statement why the current bar examination and legal employment hiring criteria are NOT in compliance with anti-discrimination laws -- clearly the ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS are NOT what's being measured here. If it were, there would be no such "strange dynamic," but instead equally qualified people getting equal pay, equal employment perks, and equal presige.

The way the legal profession is currently structured really needs a housecleaning.
11.10.2007 12:22pm
Another Law Student:

I also think a lot of the older attorneys have not adjusted to the new admissions criteria for law school....My point is the underclass of lawyers are much more talented now then they were 20 years ago and I think that needs to be accounted for in the analysis.


I completely agree with this post. Not so long ago, only white males could go/did go to law school. Back then, it was a lot easier to compete when you only had to compete with a fraction of the population. Law students today are more diverse, more competitive, and more motivated to remain in the middle class. A college degree won't cut it any more.
11.10.2007 2:06pm
cmn (mail) (www):
Mary,

I'm interested to understand better the claim you're making about discrimination here. What disability are you referring to that causes people to grade in the lower fifth of the class without affecting their ability to perform the essential functions of being a lawyer, and what accommodation do you think law schools and law firms should make for it?
11.10.2007 4:29pm
New Pseudonym (mail):

I completely agree with this post. Not so long ago, only white males could go/did go to law school. Back then, it was a lot easier to compete when you only had to compete with a fraction of the population. Law students today are more diverse, more competitive, and more motivated to remain in the middle class. A college degree won't cut it any more.


What is "not so long ago"? I think most of the graduates of the class of 1964 have retired.

By the way, do you need a license to do this stuff, or just a law degree?
11.10.2007 10:19pm
Law Student (mail):
"Another Law Student" used my words as a platform to make a completely different and unrelated point. As an empirical matter the standards for law school admission have telescoped dramatically over the last 15 - 20 years, that is just a fact. I am simply pointing out that the difference between a top law school grad and a lower top tier grad today is much smaller than it was then. I think this has to do with more students applying generally regardless of their race or gender.
11.10.2007 11:14pm
Law Student (mail):
Here is the original post:

I also think a lot of the older attorneys have not adjusted to the new admissions criteria for law school. 15 years ago numbers that would barely qualify you for Brooklyn law school or Cardozo would have gotten you in at Georgetown and UVA. Stanford was letting in 165's as late as 1997. I would have been competitive at Harvard if I applied when many of the people who are looking at my resume went to law school. My point is the underclass of lawyers are much more talented now then they were 20 years ago and I think that needs to be accounted for in the analysis.
11.10.2007 11:15pm
byomtov (mail):
Mike&nails it. Yeah, lots of lawyers are unhappy in their work. I've known some myself. Guess what? Lots of other people are unhappy in their work too, and not just low-skill workers either.

There are Ph.D.'s running around teaching as adjuncts instead of being scholars. There are architects working on strip malls instead of grand buildings. There are engineers and programmers doing what amounts to grunt work.

Why are lawyers uniquely entitled to job satisfaction?
11.11.2007 11:02am
abu hamza:
my most humiliating job interview was for a doc review company. they didn't even validate my parking -- at a job interview! and the receptionist was so mean!
and I didn't even get the job. so there are dark and dreary days trying to be a lawyer but then again that's the same thing with everyone else's life too.

30 an hour would be pretty awesome even if the work was boring. in KC the firms pay like 25 an hour I believe for the doc review work.

someone posted about how having temps "beaks the deal" because there is no advancement path. but maybe it misses the point. at least with the temp gig, everyone knows there's no future so makes arrangements as opposed to the real firm world where we fool ourselves into thinking we can make it if we just commit a little more billing fraud.
11.12.2007 12:26pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Here is a secret: there is a lot of drudgery in the law, as there is in many fields. You either learn to put your head down and do the work, or you choose another field. It is as simple as that.

Regarding BrianG's comment about a Stanford grad, as another poster noted, maybe he deserved to lose, in which case it is hard for me to see how his law school education rendered him a lesser lawyer than you.

Document review can be done by non-lawyers, but given the number of times when parties inadvertently produce privileged materia, which many courts hold to waive the privilege, it is probably malpractice to delegate this work to non-lawyers.
11.12.2007 11:01pm
theobromophile (www):
The comparisons to miners and migrant workers are ridiculous. We live in a society that values and pays for intelligence, human capital (i.e. education), and work ethic. Migrant workers exhibit one of the three; lawyers, in theory, have all of the above.

Between tuition and lost opportunity costs, law school is costing me in the six figures every year. At the end of it, should I not expect to have better job opportunities than when I started? (Top 25 law school, close to the top of the class, if such is relevant.) You can certainly find boring, relatively low-paying, dead-end jobs without the effort and expense of law school.

Furthermore, it is entirely disingenuous to look at straight-up salary. After all, there are costs associated with obtaining said salary (seven years of tuition and lost opportunity costs), migrant workers may be financially better off for many years. Imagine two 18-year-olds, one at the top of his high school class and the other a slacker. The latter goes into construction, security,the military or other blue-collar work; the former goes to college and law school. How long will it take the law student, earning $40,000/year, to catch up to his peer financially? Five years? Ten years? If the construction worker saves (or has the opportunity to save) a few thousand a year, he'll be in better financial shape than his lawyer buddy until their 30s, at least.

Obviously, you shouldn't earn it back within the first year, but there is the expectation that we will recoup our investments. Otherwise, there is no incentive to so invest, which is bad for society as a whole. As a general matter, we don't want to get into a situation wherein education (and a professional education, at that) is a bad investment.

My two cents at 2:22 am....
11.13.2007 2:22am
Law Student (mail):
Well stated...
11.13.2007 2:04pm